For decades, science fiction has said that driverless cars are the future of automobiles.
On Monday, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced the future might be here sooner than first thought.
Intel has agreed to purchase Israeli self-driving car company Mobileye for $15.3 billion, the company said in a statement March 13.
Mobileye makes technology for autonomous vehicles — self driving cars that don't need anyone behind the wheel to get people where they're going. The company's technology scans the road to anticipate collisions, read traffic signs and keep track of other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, animals and debris.
Intel already manages a division of employees devoted to producing autonomous driving technology. That group, and Mobileye, will be headquartered in Israel, the company said.
"This acquisition essentially merges the intelligent eyes of the autonomous car with the intelligent brain that actually drives the car," Intel CEO Brian Krzanich wrote in his Monday letter. "… I truly believe we are better together."
The purchase could be just the push Intel has needed to put it on the front line of the growing autonomous car market.
Mobileye supplies about 70 percent of the world's driver-assistance and anti-collision technology. In January, Intel and Mobileye partnered with carmaker BMW to build 40 self-driving cars and get them on the road. Those cars are expected to be built later this year.
In a statement, Intel said that the massive purchase price is nothing compared to the potential for Intel.
According to Reuters news agency, Goldman Sachs has projected the market for autonomous cars and driver assistance technologies to grow from about $3 billion in 2015 to $96 billion in 2025.
Intel puts those numbers about $70 billion by 2030.
"We expect the growth toward autonomous driving to be transformative," said Mobileye President and CEO Ziv Aviram. "It will provide consumers with safer, more flexible, and less costly transportation options, and provide incremental business model opportunities for our automaker customers. By pooling together our infrastructure and resources, we can enhance and accelerate our combined know-how in the areas of mapping, virtual driving, simulators, development tool chains, hardware, data centers and high-performance computing platforms. Together, we will provide an attractive value proposition for the automotive industry."
Intel is the largest private employer in Oregon, with thousands of employees at its Hillsboro and Aloha campuses. The company employed 19,500 people in Oregon as of 2016, though the company has not released new employment numbers after a series of layoffs last year. Those facilities, known as Fabs, construct microchips which are used in Intel products.
Each driverless car will need sophisticated computer parts in order to function, Krzanich said.
"The saying 'What's under the hood' will increasingly refer to computing, not horsepower," Krzanich wrote. "At four terabytes of data per day, the average autonomous car will put out the data equivalent of approximately 3,000 people. Put just one million autonomous vehicles on the road and you have the data equivalent of half the world's population. This massive amount of data requires all of Intel's assets to provide the cost-effective high-performance solutions our customers need."
The world's largest computer chipmaker has been working to diversify from its core business for years.
The purchase is expected to be finalized later this year.
By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
Visit us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Follow Geoff Pursinger at @reportergeoff